Swimsuits are the workhorses of summer, pulling extra shifts as underwear, sportswear, shorts, and balmy evening attire. Trunks must be stylish, well-constructed, and above all, flattering — may we remind you, the less you wear, the more impact it has. There are general guidelines on inseam and style to find the right fit for your body type, but beyond that it’s a category of clothing most men don’t want to think much about.
Luckily, we have some experts on-call whose job it is to do that thinking for you. So whether you’re a minimalist, an exhibitionist or a traditionalist, here are 10 stylish pairs in which to soak in the sun.
The perfectly on-trend trunks
Bather Printed Swim Trunk, $85; eastdane.com
Recommended by: Megan Collins, of the lady-led men’s fashion website Style Girlfriend
“These Bather trunks combine two of my favorite trends for summer: technical fabric and tie-dye,” says Collins. “The shorts are super-crazy quick-drying, making them perfect for a ‘beach to boardwalk’ situation.” Plus, she adds, they’re also one of the more affordable brands you’ll find out there, with everything clocking in under a hundred bucks.
The forgiving, sophisticated trunks
Onia Swim Trunks, $130; onia.com
Recommended by: Justin Berkowitz, fashion director at Bloomingdales
“This pair of trunks from Onia is deceptively simple,” says Berkowitz, but don’t be fooled. “Solid navy, yes, but my love for them is all about the little details. They have a flat front, with a snap, but the back is gloriously finished with elastic” — which makes for a better fit as you move from pool to lounge chair to pickup game of beach volleyball — “they are quite literally a translation of ‘business in the front, party in the back’ and one of the most democratically forgiving options on the market.”
The pair for athletes, real or imagined
Neil Barrett Slim-Fit Printed Swimsuit, $270; mrporter.com
Recommended by: Garrett Munce, a freelance fashion and grooming writer and editor.
“I am not going to pretend I’m athletic, but I can’t resist an athletic-inspired swimsuit,” says Munce of the slim-cut pair with punchy lightning bolt pattern. “These are cut like a retro running shirt to show off those gams.”
The designer trunks
Dries Van Noten Phibbs Trunks, $350, mohawkgeneralstore.com
Recommended by: Kevin Carney, owner of Mohawk General Store
“This season Dries Van Noten went above and beyond with a very limited collaboration with design legend Verner Panton,” says Carney, who, as purveyor of a small group of very cool shops in Los Angeles, should know a thing or two about good swim trunks. This pair, in a subtle but trippy gradated wave patterns (also available in blue) has a comfortable elastic waist with a drawstring and matching pouch for storage.
The heritage trunks
Birdwell 310 Beach Shorts, $89; birdwell.com
Recommended by: Jack Sachs, owner Drama Club
Despite being an East Coaster, or perhaps because of it, Sachs loves the story behind Birdwell Beach Britches, his go-to for days and nights by the beach, lake, or pool. “They’re born of the home-grown inspiration of a California surf family and still proudly made in the Golden State and backed by a lifetime guarantee,” he says. “Plus, the price makes it right to grab a fun color or two extra for when your basic black shorts are still drying on the dock.”
The pair for fun dads
Chubbies Old Timers 5.5-inch Stretch, $65; chubbiesshorts.com
Recommended by: Justin Ocean, deputy luxury editor, Bloomberg Pursuits.
“Even if their bro-centric marketing verges on obnoxious, I appreciate that Chubbies is in on the joke,” says Ocean, “and that their models are giving us dad bod realness instead of beach bod fantasy.” The swimsuits’ three inseam lengths compliment a variety of thigh shyness levels while bright, busy patterns such as flamingos, florals, and Star Wars fan-service are fun-in-the-sun conversation starters-all at a price point to allow you to step outside your comfort zone.
The super-versatile trunks
Orlebar Brown Bulldog Trunks, $175; bergdorfgoodman.com
Recommended by: Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus
Pask’s rule when it comes to swimwear: be prepared. Even if you’re going someplace chilly, there’s always a hotel sauna or a workout class to take. Orlebar Brown’s classic Bulldog fit (“Not too long but not too short”) offers maximum versatility, especially in a conservative color like navy — although if you want something flashier the brand is famous for its photo transfers and jaunty prints. “I always keep a pair of trunks in my carry-on, you just never know where you’re going to go.”
The quick-dry option
Frescobol Carioca Tailored Shorts, $250; frescobolcarioca.com
Recommended by: Stylist Andrew Weitz, The Weitz Effect
For Weitz, these trunks check three very important boxes: “Comfort, style, and they take very little time to dry out.” A button fly and tailored cut make them read less as swimwear and more as shorts that you happen to be able to get wet-and then wear anywhere.
The lifeguard pair
Catch Surf Waikiki 16-inch Heritage Trunk, $75; catchsurf.com
Recommended by: Victoria Hitchcock, an image consultant for the tech titans of Silicon Valley.
“I gravitate to trunks that sit above the knee,” says Hitchcock, who grew up on the beaches of California and became accustomed to the lifeguard look. The style, although more associated with Europe or South America than the U.S., will flatter most guys perfectly, while a cool block print logo like this one, conjures some serious retro California vibes.
The no-nonsense basic
Acne Perry Mid-Length Swim Shorts, $150; mrporter.com
Recommended by: Steve Dool, trend forecaster and style guide author
“Are plain black swim shorts the most exciting thing a guy can wear to the beach? No,” says Dool, “but I’m not here to entertain. I’m here to enjoy a crisp drink, go for a swim, and, vitally, get a little color on parts that have been hidden underneath layers of denim and wool for the past nine months.” To that end, Dool prioritizes length over prints or bright colors that could clash with other clothes; the shorter, the better, up until you start verging on Speedo territory. “Summer comes but once a year, and I don’t have time to think about these things too much.”